Author: Chris Grabenstein
My rating: 4 of 5
Billy has almost resigned himself to a rotten, boring summer: his mom and dad are “spending some time apart” for the summer, so he’s stuck in a lake cabin with his mom–with no TV, no video games, no friends. Not to mention, he managed to break his iPhone and get on the wrong side of the local bullies within his first full day there. In desperation, he wanders into the study of Dr. Libris, the cabin’s owner, and begins reading books from his shelf . . . . And that’s when things begin to get interesting, as Billy hears voices coming from the island in the middle of the lake–voices saying stuff right out of the book he’s reading!
I was immediately captured by the cover of The Island of Dr. Libris; I mean, come one, doesn’t it look just delicious? Like sherbet in summer or something. I wasn’t disappointed by the story inside either. This is a solid middle-grade slice-of-life/fantasy. It discusses serious topics like parents being separated and dealing with bullies in a forthright but not overwhelmingly heavy manner, which is nice. It also brings in lots of classic literature, which is always great to see in kids’ books. The story itself is original and interesting–a sort of science-fiction view on bringing books to life. I enjoyed Dr. Libris’s lab notes scattered in among the chapters to give additional perspective on what’s happening. (Also, short chapters, making this a good choice to read when you don’t have much time in a sitting to read.) Overall, this book reminds me–in feel, rather than in specific stylistic or plot points–of works like The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Name of This Book is Secret. I would recommend The Island of Dr. Libris, particularly for middle-grade readers who enjoy works similar to those just listed, or who enjoy works bridging slice-of-life and fantasy concepts generally.